Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unstructured Time Can Sometimes Be a Good Thing

Having an only child with autism, I've often worked hard to keep my daughter's schedule as busy as possible. Because she doesn't have any siblings to play with, we wanted her to be in different activities to have socialization opportunities. This approach was really reinforced last year when my daughter was in play therapy. The therapists kept stressing how much my daughter needs to be around other kids to improve her social interactions. For whatever reason, play dates were hard to set up. So, I scheduled my daughter in lots of activities. Between that and her different therapies she was one busy girl!

Luckily, my daughter thrives on having lots to do! Which is good, considering that she has things to do every day after school! Currently, she has dance class on Mondays, Mad Science class on Tuesdays, Daisy Girl Scouts and gymnastics on Wednesdays, social skills class on Thursdays, and singing lessons on Friday.

For whatever reason, my daughter didn't have a lot of her activities this week. We actually had free time after school! On Tuesday, we ran into some friends of hers outside the school. They all ran around and played, then decided to settle down and do homework together! On Wednesday, another friend of my daughter's insisted that she wanted to walk out of school with my daughter. The two girls ended up playing for awhile, and we made tentative plans for a future play date.

The lighter schedule has been nice and has, ironically, allowed for more social interactions. I'm beginning to wonder if we should have a day with no planned activities to use as play date time. I'm not ready to actually give up any of my daughter's activities yet, but it does have me wondering!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Yada Yada Yada and You-Tube Videos

It's that time of the week again--time to link up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Yes, I know, she starts the link-up on Wednesday, so it should really be called Alphabe-Wednesday. What can I say? Considering that I write the post on Tuesday night, I really feel like I'm rushing through my week! Anyway, I'm a little off-topic right now (as my daughter would love to point out). So, Jenny likes us to write a post regarding a letter of the alphabet. We're getting very close to the end! This week is the letter "Y." Considering that I have nothing to address to the letter of the week (yet again), I'm forcing my post to fit the letter "Y." "Y" is for yada, yada, yada and You-Tube videos. I know; this time I really scraping the bottom of the barrel!

In the autism blogging community, two You-Tube videos have been making their rounds. I highly recommend viewing the first video. It's less then two minutes long and is extremely eye-opening. It from a group called Rethinking Autism. This group promotes neurodiversity, which is a concept that autism isn't something to be fixed or cured, but rather it's something to be accepted and understood. People with autism are behind this group. They want to have a voice in the discussion regarding autism because they don't feel like they have much of one! Please watch the video. It's outstanding!




The next video is much longer, and it's here for you to view if you want. It's about 12 minutes long, so it's an investment of time.



To recap the above video, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb honor a college boy on The Today Show because he said, "Hello" and befriended a boy with Asperger's when he was in high school. While I admire the positive message of reaching out to someone you see is lonely instead of beating them up, I'm still a bit put-off that someone gets honored for something that everyone should be doing anyway. To make matters even more bizarre, Kathie Lee Gifford co-wrote a horrible song about the friendship that was performed by a Broadway star. The song actually made the boy with Asperger's cry. I think he felt humiliated that The Today Show was making such a big deal out of someone saying "hello" to him!

All I could think while watching this fiasco was that it would make one hell of a South Park episode. If Matt Stone or Trey Parker read my blog, they can feel free to contact me! C'mon guys, pay for the ideas instead of stealing them off the internet!

I'm done with my rants! For now, anyway!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Conversational Theory 10, Reality 3

A lot of people with Asperger's have a hard time with pragmatic language. This is simply having a two-way conversation. My daughter struggles in this area, although she's come a long way. Two years ago, when I would ask her a question, she oftentimes wouldn't bother answering it. A year ago, she had made a lot of progress, but she still didn't initiate topics very often. I remember being floored when I was driving her home from a gymnastics class, and she started telling me what her favorite part of the class was. She had never done that before!

My husband and I feel that her conversational skills have plateaued over the past few months. I have to be honest, though, I think it's a bit like a slow-dripping faucet. It doesn't feel like much is happening, but over time, the water can build up significantly. I think I now take her progress a bit for granted. But when I think that it was a big deal that she initiated a topic last year and now she does it all the time? Fantastic!

Nevertheless, my husband and I want her to keep working on her skills so she will continue to improve. We realized recently that we weren't going to be getting much support from the school district anymore and that we'll have to invest some money in paying for group speech on our own. We had her assessed recently so that the service provider could determine what her needs are, if any.

The person who conducted the assessment has known my daughter for about a year and a half since my daughter was getting speech services from this provider before. During the assessment, she showed my daughter different pictures, and my daughter had to answer her questions. The pictures depicted situations that involved sarcasm, miscommunication, and other various situations. For example, a story would involve a boy who kept talking about himself and not letting the other kids speak. The assessor would ask my daughter what the problem was and what the other kids could do to fix the situation.

During the assessment, my husband kept giving me panicked looks because our daughter was doing perfectly. She was able to detect sarcasm (thanks to my hard work) and solve all the other communication problems. I think my husband was afraid she'd be turned down for services! I knew better. I saw a couple of interesting things happen during the assessment.

After we deposited our daughter at her social skills class, we met back with the assessor to get her take. She started off by saying that she couldn't get over the improvement that had occurred over the last year or so! We had to agree. The assessor did still see some problem areas, however. They were the same things I picked up on. That is, while my daughter knew the textbook answers for all the scenarios thrown her way, the assessor tested a couple of real life situations on the sly, which my daughter didn't handle very well. For example, at one point, the assessor asked my daughter if she remembered the assessor's name. My daughter said she didn't. But instead of asking what her name was, she started to scan the office to see if she could see the name anywhere. When this failed, she still didn't ask until the assessor prompted her. Had this scenario been on one of the picture cards, I have no doubt my daughter would have answered that the kid could ask for the person's name.

Another bump occurred when the assessor asked my daughter if she had any pets at home. My daughter started to tell her a long story about her three Webkinz dogs she has. When the assessor mentioned that she had a real dog and had a picture of the dog, my daughter didn't ask to see a picture. This struck me as strange since she would usually be interested. Upon leaving the office, my daughter saw the picture of the assessor's dog. As it turns out, it was a schnauzer, the same breed as one of her Webkinz dogs. It was only then that my daughter showed interest in the assessor's dog.

It appears that my daughter has the theory of conversational rules down pat, but has a problem with generalizing them in actual conversations. She tends to be very inwardly-focused. That has been our experience with her too. I thought the assessment did a great job in showing her strengths and her shortcomings. Hopefully, she'll learn to incorporate her theoretical knowledge into her everyday conversations.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sometimes It's Hard Not To Eavesdrop!

Yesterday we had a lovely Sunday brunch out! We love to go to a neighborhood coffee shop and get some good eggs, french toast, and/or pancakes! As we were sitting and enjoying the Sunday paper, I couldn't help but notice the a woman sitting at the table behind me was a loud talker. A VERY loud talker. I don't think the person she was with got very many words in their conversation. I only heard that one woman talking on and on and on.

First, she was talking about the horrible health problems her father and father-in-law were both having. I actually tried to tune this conversation out because it was depressing and I was trying to enjoy the paper and the company of my family.

About the time our food arrived, the woman started loudly talking about how she thought her brother had Asperger's and started describing his behavior which led her to think this, such as problems socializing with other people. My husband and I looked at each other in a state of panic. Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time knows that we're not telling our daughter about her Asperger's right now. She seems to be aware that she's different, but she doesn't know the label for it yet. So, that she wouldn't hear this conversation at the next table, my husband and I immediately put down our newspaper and started having a loud conversation of our own to drown out the Asperger's conversation. I think our daughter was too busy reading the comics, then chowing down on her food to have noticed anything! Thank goodness!

It just seems like the fates are working against us. Last weekend, my husband was in a panic because he took our daughter to Toys R Us, where all the employees were wearing Autism Speaks badges and asking them if they want to give money to help out kids with autism.

Luckily, the loud woman's conversation left the Asperger's thread pretty quickly and she started talking about her new black friend who is a chef and how one of her adult kids joined some kind of black/Jewish cult that was very dangerous, but luckily she escaped!

It was just another day in a Los Angeles-area coffee shop.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blog Gems--Old Favorite



Here is a link to a post of mine that still gets a lot of hits. It lists the 12 Most Common Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome. It is the post that to this day gets the most attention. Recently, another blogger essentially took my list and blogged about it, so it has reignited interest in it!

Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

So Much Excitement Here!

It's been quite a couple of days! First, as I posted yesterday (and the day before yesterday, but that's a different story), BlogHer syndicated a post of mine. You can check it out here!

Yesterday, I found out that I made Circle of Moms Top 25 Parenting Advice and Tips list. I am at number 21, so I'm near the bottom of the list. However, The Pioneer Woman is number 22! Go figure! There are a couple other bloggers that made this list that I'd like to link to: Jen's List was number 2! Four Plus an Angel also had an impressive showing at number 5! So, I feel like I'm with a pretty impressive group of bloggers--just on the other end of the group!

No worries! Check out the other bloggers on the list. They're great.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Xtremely Funny

Okay, maybe saying that this post is Xtremely funny is exaggerating things a bit. But I'm desperate! It's Alphabe-Thursday over at Jenny Matlock's again. The letter that I have to write to this week is the letter X. I really don't want to write about x-rays, xylophones, or xenophobia, so that doesn't leave me with a lot of legitimate choices. I've been reduced to bad spelling and making untrue claims. Deal with it! X is for Xtremely funny!

Today we had our Daisy Troop meeting. Daisy's are the youngest branch of Girl Scouts for kindergartners and first graders. Our troop consists of 9 first grade girls. I'm lucky enough to have a kindergartner teacher as my co-leader. Thank goodness because I could never control the girls otherwise! Anyway, the girls all have their different personalities and quirks. Two of the girls are the "hip" ones--wise beyond their years. They love to compete with each other over who has more things, etc.

My daughter is the only girl in the troop who is on the spectrum, but there is another girl who has ADHD and impulse control issues. I do suspect another girl might have ADHD as well. The remaining 4 girls have lively personalities that keep me entertained.

Today, the girls were learning about Respecting Authority. We had a female police officer come talk to the girls. She showed them all the cool toys that were on her belt, such as her gun, her bullets, her pepper spray, her handcuffs, and her baton. She passed the pepper spray among the girls! Just kidding, she just passed the handcuffs around. The girls were able to ask questions. There was no shortage of questions. Many of the questions were very good, and the officer had a hard time believing that these were 6 and 7 year old girls!

But some of the questions were Xtremely funny! One girl had a fixation on jail. She kept asking questions such as what the food was like, whether the prisoners had to work, what the roommate situation was like. Then she started asking questions about whether certain things were "still there." The police officer immediately commented that she must have been there before. Embarrassing!

Then, my daughter raised her hand, because she had a joke to share. At least it had to do with thieves, but this started all the girls telling the police officer jokes that had nothing to do with the police. This made my daughter frustrated, and she reprimanded her friends for not staying on topic! That was Xtremely funny!

Then, one of the hip girls asked the officer if she had seen the Adam Sandler movie, Grown-Ups. The police officer looked confused and asked if police were in it. Hip girl responded that police weren't in it. She had just seen it twice and wondered if the police officer had seen it yet. This made the other hip girl comment that she had the video for Grown-Ups in her car and watched it all the time. Another girl, who loves to criticize her friends commented that they shouldn't be watching the movie since it's rated PG-13. (I just looked this up, and she's right about the rating).

I don't think the police officer knew what hit her! But she had a great time answering the girls' questions and hearing their jokes and movie reviews. She invited us to get a tour of her police station which really excited the girls! We'd better study up on the police jokes to entertain all the police officers when we go visit!

I'm Now Officially a Syndicated Blogger on BlogHer!

Okay, I jumped the gun a day early when I published this post on Wednesday (can you say embarrassing)?

This is beyond exciting for me! BlogHer has syndicated a post I wrote! For me, this is the big leagues! BlogHer has a directory of thousands of blogs, mostly written by women, that about 26 million women read! That's a lot of people who will potentially be reading my post! In addition to keeping such a huge blog directory, they also offer an ad affiliation program that allows a small blogger like me too actually make a few bucks blogging! In addition BlogHer puts on fantastic conferences. I cannot wait to attend BlogHer 11 coming up this August!

It wasn't easy getting a post syndicated. Apparently, they're very choosy about what posts they'll syndicate. I know because I tried many times to get something published to no avail. Then they approached me! So, if you've tried to get them to syndicate an article without any luck, do not give up! You will be on their radar, at least!

I would love to get syndicated again, so please show my post some love by visiting it here! If you can also comment and sparkle me, that would be fantastic too! Thanks!

If you're visiting from BlogHer and are checking out my blog, then welcome! I mostly blog about parenting a 7-year old girl with Asperger's, a high-functioning form of autism. I try to keep the slant of my blog upbeat and informative. I have a list of my favorite posts along the bottom right. You might want to check out some of those posts! If you want to check out some more recent posts, then check these out:



The Magic Is Still There



How and When Do You Tell a Child He Has Asperger's?


Top Ten Tips for Attending the Oscars

Enjoy your stay! I hope to see you again soon!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Why Are Some Areas Easy to Improve While Others Aren't?

They say that no two kids on the autism spectrum are alike. While they may share certain similarities, there can be striking differences. Some kids respond to certain play therapies or diets better than other kids on the spectrum do. There really is no cookie-cutter approach that would work with all kids on the spectrum.

I imagine the same can be said for the areas that these kids do respond to. Some kids might improve any rigidity issues they have while other kids might improve social interactions. Some kids may show overall huge improvement while other kids may show very little improvement.

In my daughter's case, we had some areas with huge improvements. In the last couple of years, she's made great strides with her conversational skills, her ability to show empathy, her desire and ability to interact with other kids, and her ability to problem-solve certain situations. However, she still has huge struggles with rigidity issues and with regulating her emotions. I'm really hoping some day her tantrums will just go away entirely!

I still find myself scratching my head on why some issues seem to resolve so easily while others will never seem to go away. I mean, if one area can resolve itself, why can't all areas?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Magic Is Still There, Part Two!

Last Thursday, I posted about how wonderful it is that my daughter still believes in the magic--the magic of leprechauns and tooth fairies. I have an update to this post.

As luck would have it, my daughter lost a tooth early on the morning of St. Patrick's Day! Also, I volunteered in her classroom on that day. As I sat in the back of the classroom, stapling together homework packets, I listened as the kids excitedly talked about leprechauns. They were all trying to come up with plans to catch one. My daughter came up with a plan first and each kid who spoke after her borrowed pretty heavily from her plan! However, one girl tried to put a wet blanket on everyone's fun and said, "You don't really believe in leprechauns, do you?" This comment made all the kids stop and think. Then they responded with their answer, "Yes! They do believe in leprechauns." Even their teacher, who is pretty tough with the academics, encouraged this belief. I was happy to see the magic was still there.

Later, the teacher had me run flash cards of sight words with two of the kids. One was the leprechaun-doubter in the class. As I was running the cards, the other student kept getting distracted and kept looking past me. When I asked him to focus, he said that he kept seeing a leprechaun running around. The doubter got pretty excited and started looking in the same direction. I guess her magic isn't entirely gone yet!

After school that day, my daughter told me that she was really disappointed that they didn't make leprechaun traps at school, so she was going to make her own. She devised a cool trap, with a fake gold coin and a dog guarding the entrance!

That night, my husband had to pull double duty. First, he had to make it look like the leprechaun visited the trap without getting caught. He put a toy lab beaker over the dog, took the gold coin, and left a note written on a shamrock that said "Better luck next year!" It was really cute.

Next, he had to play the part of tooth fairy and leave money under our daughter's pillow. Wouldn't you know that she was trying to catch the tooth fairly also? She had her head right over where the tooth was and had her arms also blocking the way. It took my husband hours of going in her room before he was finally able to take the tooth and replace it with some money.

The next morning, my daughter was excited to see that the tooth fairy came. She was also excited by the leprechaun coming and leaving the note. I asked her if she was disappointed that she didn't catch the leprechaun. She said that she knew she wouldn't--he's very tricky. She then smiled and said, "I tricked him anyway. He took a fake gold coin, thinking it was real!"

Man, I love that girl!

Friday, March 18, 2011

This One's for You, Mom!

Seven years ago today, my mother passed away. My daughter was just over 8 weeks old at the time. I never really knew what it was like to have an interfering mom to help me with my questions about motherhood. There were so many times that I wanted to call her and ask her parenting questions, then realized I couldn't. It really made the motherhood journey a lonely one for me.

Ironically, I had my daughter about 6 weeks early. The one blessing with this was that my mother was able to meet my daughter a couple of times before she died. This wouldn't have been possible if she was born around her due date.

Also ironically, I don't think my mom would have initially been supportive about us seeking out a diagnosis for our daughter. I could very clearly imagine her saying, "There is nothing wrong with my beautiful granddaughter! How dare you say she is less than perfect" I do think that over time, with the improvements my daughter has had, my mom would have come around.

Now, seven years later, I still miss her and wish she and my daughter got more of a chance to get to know each other. It really makes me sad that my daughter doesn't have a living grandmother.

Does your mom get on your nerves at times? Even if she does, really tell her how much you appreciate her!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Magic Is Still There!

When my daughter was in preschool, one of her preschool teachers made a HUGE deal out of St. Patrick's Day. She sprinkled gold glitter all over the floor of the classroom and in the outside play area. She hid play gold coins in the playground sand area. She also created chaos everywhere. She turned over chairs and tables in the classroom, stuck brooms in the trees, put the play dinosaurs in the sand. She wanted to make it look like leprechauns visited the class and made mischief everywhere! She had the kids go on a hunt to look for the leprechauns! The whole thing was amazing beyond words. I had never given St. Patrick's Day a single thought when I was a kid--other than being sure I wore green so I wouldn't get pinched.

When I complimented the teacher on the amount of work she went through to make the day so special, she told me that she does it because of the limited time that kids believe in magic. She sees the beginning of the belief in magic already beginning to fade by the time the children hit 4 and 5. She likes to give them the special experience while she still can.

This made me a little sad--the fact that kids seem to grow-up so fast! My daughter turned 7 recently. She still remembers that special day in preschool really well, even though it was a couple of years ago. I asked her today what they did last year in kindergarten for St. Patrick's Day, or Leprechaun's Day as my daughter likes to call it. She told me that there were green footprints, so they knew the leprechauns visited her class. They had done some mischief too, but not as much as the year before in her preschool.

I'm a little sad because I'm sure the leprechauns won't be doing much mischief in her first grade class. I'm sure her teacher will do something fun during the day, but I know it won't be anything that magical. I warned my daughter about that because I don't want her being upset if the day wasn't as special as it's been over the past couple of years.

The magic is still there however. Tonight, she pointed out a tooth that's going to be coming out. I told her the tooth fairy will be making a visit soon. She pointed out that there are actually two tooth fairies. She claims she stayed awake one night when they were supposed to come, and she saw them fly into her room. One had short, wavy brown hair. The other had long, wavy hair, but was pretty far from the nightlight, so my daughter couldn't make out her hair color. She thinks it might have been white though. Both fairies were tiny and flew around the room. They were beautiful!

Part of me wanted to tell my daughter that she dreamed about the fairies, but why ruin the magic? I hope she believes in the tooth fairies as long as she's losing her baby teeth. I'm sure that won't happen. It's pretty elusive.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wide World of Sports and Autism

I'm linking this post to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Each week we write a post based on a letter of the alphabet. The letter this week is "W." My "W" post is the wide world of sports and autism!

Kids on the spectrum generally have a hard time playing sports. Many kids may have a hard time with their gross motor skills. Some may have a hard time controlling their body and getting it to do what they want it to do. Many of these kids also have low muscle tone, which can make doing sports difficult. I have a hard time understanding what the link between autism, a neurological disorder, has to do with muscle tone. The two seem so unrelated to me. Nevertheless, they seem to be linked somehow.

My daughter was a late walker. She didn't start walking until she was over 19 months old. According to the physical therapist we were seeing, her core muscles were weak which is what caused the delay. At the time, nobody suspected autism. Everyone thought she was just a late walker due to the low muscle tone. One physical therapist told us that this will always be an issue, but if we got her involved in things like swimming, dance, or gymnastics, it can make a huge difference!

This has been the case. While my daughter is far from athletic, having her involved in things like gymnastics has definitely helped. One team sport she has played over the last 3 years is soccer. In the beginning, the kids weren't expected to do much, other than run around the field and learn the basics of the game. We thought she had a great chance to get some exercise and socialize with her friends. She loved playing the goalie position because it gave her an opportunity to take a break from all that running! She also had fun wrapping herself up in the soccer goal netting and pretending she was a spider. She enjoyed picking flowers too, but she didn't have to be goalie to do that!

Over time, however, the other kids started to take the game more seriously. My daughter kept insisting that soccer was her favorite sport, but she always seemed to look tortured out there on the field. She avoided the ball as much as possible and generally stayed away from where the action was at. We began to think her soccer-playing days were ending. She still kept insisting that she liked playing though.

Over this past summer, we took a break from the league. I hated soccer in the summer because the heat is so bad here! Somehow, we inadvertently missed the sign-ups for the fall league. We did manage to sign her up for this winter league. Something weird happened: the kids matured and started to play the game much more competitively! Even stranger was that my daughter improved greatly as well. While she'll never be the star of the team, she is much more engaged in the game and actively goes after the ball. I was amazed to see a play she made at a game this past Sunday. She had control of the ball and dribbled it from mid-field all the way to the end where their goalpost was. She took the ball out of bounds, but a teammate scored a goal during the next play! Awesome! I was so proud that she had such a major role in that goal! That was a first!

Here's to her future in sports! She may never be the star athlete, but seeing her out there having fun and actively participating is a beautiful sight to see!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

When Will She Put the Puzzle Together?

My husband had an outing with my daughter over the weekend. She had received a $3 gift certificate from her birthday for Toys R Us, and he thought it would be fun to take her there so she could find something to buy with her allowance. It sounded like a fun outing. When the employees found out she had a birthday certificate, they had her wear a paper crown and carry around a mylar birthday balloon. Her birthday was actually about 6 weeks ago, but how cool that she was given the VIP treatment!

Toys R Us is also in the process of helping to raise money for Autism Speaks. I've given Toys R Us a s hard time in the past on my blog, but I do think it's awesome that they're helping to raise funds to help put together the puzzle of Autism.

While my husband and daughter were there, my husband noticed the employees wearing buttons that talked about this fundraising effort. Any of my blog readers know that we have not had "the talk" with our daughter yet about her autism. She knows that certain things don't come naturally to her, but she just doesn't know that label for what that is yet. While my husband was at the store, however, he was sweating bullets. He kept waiting for her to read the buttons, then ask him what autism is. While we've talked about what we'll say to her about her situation, we've never talked about what we should do if she starts asking about autism in a more general sense. When they were buying the toy she picked out, the cashier asked my husband if he'd like to donate some money toward Autism Speaks. He made a donation, all the while waiting for our daughter to ask the question. She didn't because she was too engrossed in her new toy.

After they arrived home, and he told me the story, I asked him what he would have said to her if she had asked. He had no idea. Neither did I. We started brainstorming what the right approach would be. Would we only describe it as it presents in the most severe cases? No, that doesn't make much sense. So, we decided we would talk about how it's a common disorder that can occur in a wide variety of ways that cover a whole spectrum.

I think it's only going to be a matter of time before she puts the puzzle together on her own.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Crayola Fail!

The other day, my daughter and I were shopping at Target. She loves to blow bubbles during her bath, and I remembered that she was out of bubble solution. I saw this really cool product from Crayola, where the bubbles are colored! They're called Crayola Washable Bubbles. They looked really awesome on the display and came in all different colors such as blue, green, purple, and pink, among other colors. I thought these would be fun! I asked my daughter what color she would like, and she pick Flamingo Pink! Cool!

During her bath that night, she eagerly took the bubbles and blew her first one. As it was floating up, we noticed that the bubble had a slight color to it, but it wasn't as obvious as it was on the display picture. Then the bubble popped against the wall of the bathroom. It was horrible! When the bubble popped, it left behind a splattering of color on the wall. The color wasn't Flamingo Pink as much as it was Crimson Red. You know, exactly the color of blood. Before long, my bathroom looked like a scene out of True Blood or Dexter.

It's a good thing my daughter has a warped sense of humor like I do and wasn't traumatized by the experience. Actually, we were both laughing our asses off. It was pretty funny!

When I mentioned to her that I was going to write about this incident, she said, "Don't forget to tell your readers that the bubble solution is washable!" Maybe she has a future as a product review blogger! Actually, I looked up information on the Crayola site and they warn that these bubbles are messy and are for outside use only. They also mention that, "Sunlight will help to fade colors on the ground that don't immediately wash off with a hose!" Yikes! They also helpfully say that, "Wear play clothes when using Colored Bubbles. Never bring them to formal occasions like weddings or other events where folks are not dressed for the mess!" Can you imagine taking these bubbles to a wedding and blowing them on the bride? She's look like Carrie at the prom before long!

Here are some pictures of the carnage! Enjoy!








Obviously, Crayola has not endorsed this post and provided me with neither compensation nor free bubbles. I actually paid over $3.00 for this! Thank you, Crayola! Actually, it was a cheap price for the laugh and the blog material.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The $64,000 Question

The month of February was a pretty yucky month. My daughter was going through a bad cycle. She was very inflexible and quick to cry. She even had some tantrums, which she hasn't had in a long, long time. It was pretty discouraging since things had been going pretty good.

However, things have been going pretty good lately. I don't want to jinx it, but my daughter has been more flexible and easy going. She seems happier, which is great!

Which bring me to the $64,000 question. Why do high-functioning kids on the spectrum seem to go through these cycles of good days and bad days. I know I blogged about this before, but that was awhile ago. I'm still scratching my head.

The behavior therapists we meet with always ask, "What's the antecedent?" They're sure we'll find the magic bullet that brings on the bad behavior. We haven't found one yet, and I doubt we will. You can take the same situations and on days where my daughter is flexible, she'll handle everything with a sense of humor and grace. On her more rigid days, the same situations can put her into a tailspin with her crying about every. little. thing.

This carries over to other areas as well. On her good days, her eye contact is better, she's more on-task, and the quality of her conversations are better. On her bad days, she just can't look at you in the eye when she's talking, and she tries to put a sock on her foot that already has one on. And doesn't realize it until you point it out to her.

I don't know if lower-functioning kids also go through these cycles. Heck, I don't really know if any other kids on the spectrum do, but I have heard of other parents saying this happens with their kids as well.

I wish I knew what caused some days to be better or worse than others.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rigidity! Why Does It Always Have to Be Rigidity?

Yesterday, I wrote about how my daughter asked me if she will have to repeat first grade (see here). This freaked me out because she does great academically! I assumed a kid said something mean to her or that she wasn't feeling very good about her academic acumen. Her question left me really confused.

Today, I asked her about it again because of my confusion. She then explained why she asked. She didn't ask because she was concerned about repeating first grade. She asked because she was hoping to repeat first grade. Why was she hoping to repeat first grade? Well, she was sick last week and missed a couple of days of school. One of these days happened to be the 100th day of school. When my daughter found out that she missed the 100th day, she was devastated. However, a week later, I thought she had recovered.

Apparently, she hadn't recovered. She wanted to repeat first grade so that she could experience the 100th day as a first-grader. I pointed out that there will be a 100th day when she's in second grade also. But to her, it's just not the same.

This rigidity issue has always been the tough issue with her to overcome. Once she has her mind set on something she will not let it go. She's like a pit bulldog that will not loosen up the grip on the mailman.

We've been working really hard lately to chisel away at the rigidity. We have sticker charts to encourage increased flexibility. And while this does help to a certain degree, the rigidity is still always present in one form or another. My daughter has made such great strides in other areas, but this is the one area that I think will never come easily to her.

I had to be clear that she's not going to repeat an entire year of school because she missed one particular day. She's just gotta say, "Bummer!" and move on with her life. While she understands that, it will never come naturally to her.

Bummer!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Very Weird!

I'm linking this post to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday (yeah, I know it's only Wednesday. Leave me alone, I'm sick!). For this meme, we have to write to a letter of the alphabet. The letter this week is "V." Again, I can't come up with anything good starting with that letter, so I'm stretching a bit this week. V is for very weird!

When I picked up my daughter from school today, she asked me a very weird question! She asked if she will be repeating the first grade. I have no idea where she got that idea in her head. I asked her if any of the other kids might have said something to her. She said that they hadn't. It was a thought that she had. I asked her what that thought could have been based on? She didn't really have an answer.

I explained to her that it was very unusual for a kid to redo first grade. Normally, kids move on to the next level. In her case, she's doing good in math, and she's an exceptional reader--the best in the class (actually, probably the best for her whole grade). So, of course she'll move on to the next grade--no problem!

She seemed relieved when I told her this. I find this whole thing very weird though. She knows she's smart! I can't help but wonder if she thought she'd be held back because she acts younger than the other kids (crying when she gets frustrated, etc.). I didn't ask her about this, but the thought occurred to me later.

Very weird!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Would You Like to Buy Some Girl Scout Cookies?

When we were trying to find ways to get our daughter to interact with her "normie" peers, one suggestion we heard from her service providers over and over again was to get her involved in Daisy's (the youngest branch of Girl Scouts). I couldn't find a chapter at her school or in the surrounding area, so I got a chapter started at her school. I had the great fortune of getting the best co-leader ever! One of the kindergarten teachers at the school had a daughter in my daughter's class. She wanted to start a troop too. I never could have done this without her. She's enthusiastic, great with the kids, and has great ideas for programming. Essentially, she brings everything to the table, and I bring...wait a minute...what do I bring?

Anyway, unless you've been living under a rock during the last month or so, it's now Girl Scout Cookie Sales time! This is the big fundraiser for the year. Because our troop is small, and we're not planning any big events, I thought it would be fun for the girls to sell a few boxes so they can have the experience. But apparently, you can't do a fundraiser without some of the families going a bit crazy! Without doing much effort, our 7-girl troop has sold over $1,500 in cookies! I was amazed.

I only booked one boothing opportunity, which was this past weekend. Actually, we were supposed to booth the weekend before, but I postponed it since there was a chance of snow (yes, in Los Angeles) when we were supposed to be selling the cookies. Well, the snow didn't arrive in this area (although it did in other parts of the city). The weekend we sold the cookies, it was in the low-80s. It felt much hotter with the sun beating down on us. Did I mention that I had a head cold? Ugh!

We managed to have fun though. My co-leader had a much different approach to the cookie sales than I did. If a potential customer said "No, thanks!" I'd respond with a, "Thanks, and have a great day!" My co-leader would start using high-pressure sales techniques. One time, a woman declined buying any cookies. I thanked her, then noticed how dirty she appeared. My co-chair didn't notice and turned up the sale tactics, "Buy some for your granddaughters!" "I don't have any granddaughters!" the woman would snap back! "You can freeze them for later!" My co-chair added. "NO!" the woman yelled as she walked away. I think it was then that my co-leader noticed how she was dressed. "I think she's homeless" I whispered to my co-leader.

Well, that was one person who was able to get away without buying any cookies.

The girls looked cute! They all held boxes of cookies and smiled at everyone. We started singing a song we made up (sung roughly to the tune of Clementine), "Buy our cookies, buy our cookies, but our Girl Scout Cookies. They're yummy and delicious, but not so nutritious. Buy our Girl Scout Cookies.

We weren't able to sell our 11 last boxes of cookies. I guess I'll be eating cookies for awhile!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stepping Outside Her Comfort Zone

About a week ago, a mom of one of my daughter's "normie" friends pulled me aside to talk. Apparently, her daughter was having a hard time finding friendly kids to play with during recess or lunch. For whatever reason, she wasn't bonding well with many of the girls in their class. I mentioned that she could always play with my daughter. The mom paused for a moment, then said that while her daughter loves having playdates with my daughter, because they both love dolls and other games, she doesn't always like to play with her at school because my daughter always wants to pretend they're animals. Her daughter is getting tired of that game. So, when there are no toys involved, my daughter just likes to play the same pretend game.

I told her I totally understand and proceeded to tell her that her daughter could approach my daughter and let her know that since they always play what my daughter wants to play, it's time for my daughter to play what she wants to play! I told her that my daughter should respond positively if her daughter points this out!

I'm not at all surprised about this complaint. My daughter can have a hard time with imaginative play and get stuck scripting, which is playing the same scenario over and over and over again. This can drive a normie nuts, but for my daughter, it can be a lot of fun and put her in her comfort zone since she can control the game and how it goes.

Later, when my daughter and I were alone, I told her about what her friend's mom told me. I stressed that people are more important than games. I knew she valued her friendship with her friend and reminded her that she needs to be open about playing what other kids want to play. My daughter said that she understood and will try and remember to try other games.

After school this past Thursday, my daughter told me about playing with two other classmates (her other friend wasn't part of this group). She said they wanted to play cowboys and cowgirls, which she didn't want to play. However, she said that she really liked these friends and that this was more important than playing what she wanted. So, she joined in their game. She told me that she ended up having a blast, which really surprised her! I told her that was wonderful and that it's great that she tried playing a new game.

I hope this positive experience of stepping outside her comfort zone will make it easier for her to play a variety of games with her friends at school. My daughter has actually been socializing pretty well and has been successful at forging some good friendships.

Here's to trying new things! I'm so thankful that the mom was comfortable enough to tell me about what was happening at school!

Friday, March 4, 2011

How and When Do You Tell a Child He Has Asperger's?

Since I've been on such a tear criticizing the show Parenthood this week, I'm going to continue! However, I want to make it clear that I love this show--I really do! I think they do the best job portraying a child with high-functioning Asperger's. The writing and acting are stellar! So then, why have I been so hard on the show? Maybe because it's so good, that when I see flaws I just have to point them out in the hopes that the writers will do even better next time.

This post will focus on the awful job Adam and Kristina did in discussing Asperger's with their son, Max, when he found out he had Asperger's. When they had this discussion with him, they had no time to prepare for it. They had to improvise their speech. Nevertheless, I can't believe they hadn't mentally played through what they would say when the time came. In my case, my husband and I have discussed what we would tell our daughter. I have it thought through already. Maybe everyone isn't like me, but to botch it up as badly as Adam and Kristina did is just hard to believe.

In the scene, when Max asked what Asperger's and Autism was, Adam started to describe it by saying he had a disability. Kristina started crying. A lot. And I found myself laughing, which I don't think is the reaction the writers had intended. Usually, I'm crying my eyes out during this type of scene. But this scenario was so beyond ridiculous, that I found myself laughing.

Later, when Adam and Kristina met with a psychologist to find out how to handle the situation better, he gave some pretty common sense tips, such as to be sure to point out the positives. I was hugely offended when Adam yelled out (and I'm paraphrasing) that there were no positives and he couldn't believe they were supposed to say, "Congratulations! You have Asperger's! You've won a prize." This reaction seemed so fake! They've had to live with their son's diagnosis for about a year now, so I would think the parents would have come to terms with the situation by then and would have learned to appreciate some of their son's quirks.

The scene of Max throwing a huge tantrum was chillingly real, however. I was certainly not laughing during that scene. That was a tear-inducer, for sure! The writers do a great job showing the rigidity of the character. This is a trait with my daughter also and something we work on all the time.

Finally, the parents did a do-over with Max and followed the psychologist's suggestions. Of course, the discussion went a lot better this time. It gave me some food for thought of ways to broach the topic with my daughter, when the time is right. Like when she's putting me into a nursing home.

While I've been critical of Parenthood over this past week, I still love the show and hope they continue to keep the Asperger's storyline as a central part of the show. I think it really is educating the general public about this condition. Someone commented on my blog yesterday that show is a drama and is not meant to be a documentary. Point taken! But I don't feel the two are mutually exclusive, and if the writers can strike that balance of creating great drama while educating at the same time, then I think the show's depth is improved!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

When Behaviorists Go Bad

As I referenced in yesterday's post, this post is going to discuss last week's Parenthood episode. The behaviorist that Adam and Kristina hired to work with their son, Max, was pretty stellar for the most part last season. This season, she was just terrible, although the writers still wanted the viewer to believe she was amazing. I have to think the show changed writers who have no clue about how behaviorists are supposed to, well...behave!

One major transgression happened in the beginning of the season. Adam came home from work and was upset when his son didn't greet him. Not only did the behaviorist not intervene with Max about his unacceptable behavior, she proceeded to reward him with stickers for something else he had done, and treat Adam as if he was nuts for wanting his son do a very basic act such as say, "Hi!"

On last week's episode, she changed the reward system she was using with Max and was giving him less rewards. She apparently failed to coach him in advance that she was doing this. When, the not-so-unexpected tantrum resulted, she started yelling at him to stop, then cried when he left the room. My daughter has had a total of 3 behaviorists that have worked with her. I have never seen ANY of them behave this way! In fact, their job is to teach the parents how not to behave this way! I was floored!

Then, the behaviorist proceeded to have a one-night stand with Adam's engaged brother, then quit, without notice because it was too painful for her to be around the family. Again, I never heard of a behaviorist behaving in this manner. They're supposed to leave their personal lives outside the family's house. If she really couldn't handle working with the family, she should have given them two weeks' notice and prepared Max for the change. They should not put their own needs before those of a child with autism. I know my daughter's behaviorists sometimes go through absolutely horrific things in their personal lives. When they show up to do their job, you'd never know it! It's just part of their job.

I say good riddance to bad behaviorists. I hope the writers get their act together to really learn what behaviorists do. Actually, they can get Haddie's boyfriend, Alex, to work as a behaviorist. In last week's show, he corrected Max when he didn't greet his father when he arrived home. He seems to be a better behaviorist than the one they had hired!

Tomorrow, I'm going to discuss how unbelievably bad the writers of the show handled Adam and Kristina's discussion of Asperger's with Max. I found myself laughing which I don't think is what the writers intended. At least, I hope it wasn't what the writers intended!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ultimate Careers for People on the Spectrum

It's that time of the week again! Time for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, where we write posts based on a letter of the alphabet. This week's letter is the letter "U." I honestly couldn't come up with a good "U" post, so I'm force-fitting this post to address "U." "U" is for Ultimate Careers for People on the Spectrum.

I'm really falling behind on my Parenthood viewing, so I haven't been blogging about it. It's a shame because they've been focusing on the Asperger thread quite a bit lately. In fact, it was going to be heavily featured on last night's episode. Which I haven't watched yet. I will be blogging about it soon since it seems very blog worthy.

I thought last week's episode had an interesting thread. Max Braverman, the 9 year-old boy with Asperger's, was having a birthday party. The party entertainment was a bug show at the house. The guy doing the show had obvious signs of Asperger's, yet the Braverman's were kinda slow in picking this up. I guess they're the only parents of a child on the spectrum who haven't developed A-dar. The next big revelation they had was that somebody with Asperger's would grow into an adult and find a way to make a living doing something they love. They found this to be inspirational.

While I can totally understand their revelation and the hope it brings for their son, I'm quite frankly surprised that this was new to them. They never heard of Bill Gates? Granted, that's an extreme example, but still! I remember when my daughter was first diagnosed. She was accepted for services through our county's regional center. When the service coordinator came to our house for her introductory visit, she loudly proclaimed that "these kids" can grow up and do work that is far too boring for anyone else to do. She loudly proclaimed (right in front of my then almost 5 year old daughter) that she could grow up to be a condom counter in a factory. Yup, you read that right! I was surprised that my daughter didn't start asking uncomfortable questions like, "What's a condom?"

My aspirations for my daughter were (and still are) higher than counting condoms. I think she's capable of becoming a top scientist or a killer defense attorney! I think that there will be a world of possibilities open to her!

Granted, all kids with Asperger's will not be the next Bill Gates. Very few people achieve that level of success--on the spectrum or otherwise. NPR recently did an interesting article of an employment agency that finds jobs for adults with Asperger's or high-functioning autism. They've been employing people to test software. The job can be a bit repetitive (like counting condoms), but offers a very useful and important job skill. The article stated that this agency, which is located in Illinois, is the only one in the country that does this. There is another Danish agency that also places people on the spectrum to do similar work.

With the growing numbers of people on the spectrum, I think there will be a need for more agencies like these. Or, of course, people will use their entrepreneurial spirit to develop their own career path, such as starting a bug business for parties or developing the next amazing computer product.

On my next post, I will discuss more topics from last week's and this week's shows such as: Why exactly do the Braverman's like their incompetent behaviorist? Tune in tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How I Spent Oscar Sunday Before Attending the Big Event

As I've talked about once or twice or twenty times (but who's counting), I went to the Oscars this year. I'm sure many stars who go spend the day sleeping in, getting facials and massages. Then their hair dressers, make-up artists, and dressers make sure every detail is absolutely perfect! That is so similar to how my day went!

Here was my schedule on Sunday:

8:00am: Yay! I was able to sleep-in! All right!

8:01am: Grab quick shower and blow dry hair.

8:30am: Feed daughter breakfast.

8:45am: Play with daughter

9:00am: Sneak time on computer to read blogs and emails

10:00am: Husband wakes up. Do load of laundry.

11:00am: Husband cleans out stuff out of my car, which we're taking to Oscars.

12:30pm: Go out to brunch in sweats.

1:30pm: Look at time, realize we have to be on Red Carpet in about 2 hours. We're still at restaurant looking dumpy. Panic ensues.

1:35pm: We stop at car wash so car would look a little okay. Daughter starts crying because she wants us to buy her stuffed animal at car wash. We don't give in.

2:15pm: Arrive home. Realize we have to leave in about 30 minutes. Extreme panic.

2:20pm: Realize I still have to fold laundry.

2:30pm: Start to get ready. Quickly do hair and makeup. Throw on gown. Wish I still had my sweats on. Wondered if it would be too tacky to attend Oscars in sweats.

3:15pm: Leave for Oscars. Finally.

3:45pm: Arrive at Oscars.

3:46pm: Found out I needed to bring identification to get in. My husband forgot to tell me that. Security took pity on me and let me in. Whew!

3:50pm: Hit the Red Carpet! I've arrived after spending my day being pampered!

Yeah, I'm sure my morning was just like Natalie Portman's!